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Avoiding Foodborne Illness: How to Clean Vegetables and Fruits Naturally

Expertly reviewed by Chris Icamen · Dietetics and Nutrition

Written by Louise Nichole Logarta · Updated Feb 13, 2022

    Avoiding Foodborne Illness: How to Clean Vegetables and Fruits Naturally

    Vegetables and fruits are abundant sources of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and many other nutrients. They are key food groups necessary for the maintenance of any healthy diet. However, similar to the human body, plants have microflora that live on them, which are often harmless. But, in some cases, some microorganisms can cause sickness especially when ingested. Therefore, it is important to know how to clean vegetables and fruits naturally.

    Microbes that can exist on surfaces

    Various types of microbes are present on the surface of fruits and vegetables that can have damaging effects on one’s health. One such microorganism is Enterobacteriaceae, a Gram-negative family of bacteria, which includes but is not limited to Escherichia coli, Klebsiella, Salmonella, Shigella, and Yersinia pestis (the bacteria carried by rats that were responsible for the plague). Other bacteria that may also be present on fruits and vegetables are from the family Enterococcus, temporary plant microflora that may flourish on the surface; and Staphylococcus aureus, a bacterium that can sometimes cause fatal infections.

    Because these pathogens (disease-causing microorganisms) are opportunistic, they quickly invade and weaken immuno-compromised individuals. C

    Contamination could occur at any time in any stage with produce: animal excretions, substances in soil or water, during harvest, and even during preparation and storage. To avoid getting infected, one must learn how to clean fruits and vegetables naturally.

    In recent years, there’s been an uptick in the consumption of such fruits and vegetables. However, as a result, there has also been an increase in infections and outbreaks of foodborne illnesses.

    How bacteria grows on fresh produce

    Food and agriculture authorities have found that bacteria responsible for food spoilage thrived with the presence of moisture and nutrients, the ideal combination of which could be found in fresh produce. These conditions could be further supported by condensation in the plastic packaging and moisture from the refrigerator.

    When conditions are favorable, bacteria can quickly multiply, forming colonies of millions of bacteria, which can cause fruits and vegetables to spoil and become inedible.

    Consumers are advised to keep an eye on the moisture building on their produce and wipe away excess visible condensation. Airflow and cleanliness of the container is important in keeping produce fresh as well. It is also not advisable to wash your vegetables until you are ready to consume them.

    Tips on how to clean fruits and vegetables naturally

    The Food and Drug Administration recommends several methods on how to clean fruits and vegetables naturally

    •  Wash your hands for 20 seconds with warm water and soap before handling any fresh produce.
    • Cut off bruised or damaged sections of the fruit or vegetable before preparing or eating.
    • Rinse fruit or vegetables thoroughly before peeling in order to separate the residual dirt and bacteria.
    • While rinsing, rub the produce. There is no need to wash them with soap.
    • You may also use a vegetable brush to scrub firm produce.
    • Dry them with a clean cloth or paper towel to further minimize the risk of bacteria present.
    • Peel the outermost leaves of a head of cabbage or lettuce.

    Key Takeaways

    Although fresh fruits and vegetables have high levels of health-promoting nutrients, there is a risk of contracting a foodborne illness.

    With a spike in the consumption of fresh produce, more infections and outbreaks of opportunistic pathogens present on their surfaces have also been seen. Fresh fruits and vegetables are prone to contamination by animal microorganisms and bacteria that could have been transferred to them during harvest, by transport workers, and even in storage and preparation.

    Some ways on how to clean fruits and vegetables naturally include washing one’s hands with water, rinsing and rubbing the surface of the produce, peeling the fruits, and drying the produce with paper towel.

    Learn more about Other Foodborne Illnesses here


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Expertly reviewed by

    Chris Icamen

    Dietetics and Nutrition

    Written by Louise Nichole Logarta · Updated Feb 13, 2022

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